Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism.
"Biggest American Town Without Public Transportation Finally Catches the Bus," Keith Barry, Wired
Arlington, Texas has a population of 375,000 people, and up until now, it was the most populous city in the U.S. to lack a comprehensive public transportation system. That’s about to change as the city tentatively tries out a bus service for two years, but Arlington residents shouldn’t sell their cars just yet. The ride could get a bit bumpy.
Called Metro Arlington Express (or MAX, for short), the new service travels from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) campus to a commuter rail station in a business park just south of DFW airport. There are 18 departures between 5:35 a.m. and 9:41 p.m., free Wi-Fi, and $5 will get you an all-day pass — about the same price as what you’d pay for gas to drive across town.
It might sound like a good first step in judging local interest for a bus service, but it’s really the opening play in a game of political football.
"The One Building that Explains How Detroit Could Come Back," Jennifer Bradley and Bruce Katz, The New Republic
The old Argonaut Building has a big place in Detroit’s history. From 1936 to 1956, it was the home of the General Motors Research Laboratory, the first in-house research & design studio in the automotive industry. The mass-produced automatic transmission was developed there, and over three decades every GM car was designed and styled in the Argonaut building. From 1956 to 1999, the building housed Argonaut Realty, GM’s real estate arm. But for the next decade, the somber 11-story structure, designed by famed architect Albert Kahn and built to support the weight of new cars on upper floors, was empty. So were many of the other buildings where people made, designed, or sold cars, or prepared legal documents, or saw patients, or did much of the everyday work of Detroit.
For most observers of the city, where an emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr, filed for bankruptcy on July 18, that’s where the story ends—empty buildings, lost jobs, and a pervasive sense of decay and defeat.
"New Orleans Has Not Fixed Its Flooding Problem," Sarah Goodyear, Next City
On August 29, 2005 — eight years ago on Thursday — Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and federal levees failed in New Orleans, flooding the city. We honor the lives interrupted or lost to the deluge by turning our attention this week to the city’s recovery.
On the morning of July 23, the residents of the Carrollton neighborhood in New Orleans woke up to a flood. Shin-deep water swirled through the streets. Cars were up to their bumpers in murky water. Millions of gallons covered the roadway to a depth of more than two feet.
The deluge was not the result of a storm surge or drenching rain. This was a more localized emergency, caused by the rupture of an 80-year-old water main.
"Bill De Who?" David Freedlander, Newsweek
I am going to talk about Joseph Stiglitz every chance I get!” Bill de Blasio barks at me over his cellphone. De Blasio, New York’s public advocate, has quickly surged from an also-ran to the frontrunner in New York’s mayoral race—and Stiglitz is part of the reason why. The Columbia economist is one of a handful of liberal luminaries—the list includes George Soros, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, Howard Dean, and Susan Sarandon—who have endorsed de Blasio’s candidacy, helping to make him, virtually overnight, the preferred candidate of New York’s progressive left.
That, in turn, has vaulted him into frontrunner status with little over a week remaining until the Democratic primary: the most recent Quinnipiac poll has him winning 36 percent of the Democratic vote, up about 15 points over his chief rivals, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former city comptroller Bill Thompson—and close to getting the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Liberals, locked out of Gracie Mansion since the David Dinkins era, are dreaming of finally getting one of their own to govern Gotham.
"Silver Lining in China’s Smog as It Puts Focus on Emissions," Chris Buckley, New York Times
HONG KONG — Jiang Kejun may be one of the few Beijing residents who see a ray of hope in the smog engulfing the city. A researcher in a state energy institute, he is an outspoken advocate of swiftly cutting China’s greenhouse gas output, and he sayspublic anger about noxious air has jolted the government, which long dismissed pollution as the necessary price of prosperity.
The grimy haze blanketing Beijing and other Chinese cities comes from motor vehicles, factories, power plants and furnaces that also emit carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas from human activities. The widespread ire about air pollution has forced China’s new leadership to vow firmer, faster measures for cleaner air that are likely to reduce carbon dioxide output, especially from coal, experts said. "The public concern about the air pollution has helped raise awareness about broader environmental problems,” said Mr. Jiang, a researcher at the Energy Research Institute, which advises the Chinese government. "This will be a big help in pushing China."